Place: Caitlin Myer

Leaves

You’ll never leave here, said the man at the bar. You’re going to meet a nice Norwegian man and get married—he squinted at me. No, not married. But you’ll move in together, to a cabin in the forest. You’ll have sheep, and chickens…and you’ll wear a pistol on your hip, because you’re American.

I was staying in a whitewashed farmhouse above the village, at the edge of the woods. The young owners had high color in their cheeks and a newborn in a Moses basket. They grew root vegetables, made me oatmeal for breakfast. In the winter, said the husband, you cross-country ski into the village.

I could live here. Wear my hair in a braid, face growing chapped from the wind, a Norwegian cowgirl. I’d ski into the village for supplies. There was a local poet who lived by the lake—he didn’t marry until he was in his ‘70’s. There’s time, I thought. That could be me.

On my last day, I walked into the woods. It was October, and the trees loosed their leaves, I kicked up red, orange, yellow. Beyond the path the woods went on and on. It would take no time at all to lose myself in the heart of the forest. I walked until village noise dropped away. No cars. No voices. I left the trail then and climbed up, found a stone, and sat. Forest sounds crept up over my lap, my shoulders. I listened to shifting leaves. No longer a woman with a broken heart I was rotting wood, bugs, bright October air. My consciousness lifted and wheeled above the treeline. In the distance, a goddamn flock of sheep, bells ringing.

No, not married. Now I live in another country, warmer than Norway—outside. Colder inside. A house with stone walls, four hundred years old. I sit at my kitchen table and pour a glass of wine. It seems I prefer to live alone. A carapace was left behind, balanced on a stone in Norwegian forest. I lift the glass to my lips and she stirs, the skin of my former self. I can hear sheep’s bells beneath the refrigerator hum, buzz of fluorescent light. We want to keep going, she and I. She rises from the stone and climbs, further and higher from the path, deeper into woods, the soles of her shoes flash in October sun.

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Caitlin Myer’s memoir, Wiving, is forthcoming from Arcade in July 2020. Her has appeared in No Tokens, Electric Literature, The Butter, Cultural Weekly, and Joyland, among others. Myer is founder of the San Francisco-based literary reading series Portuguese Artists Colony. She has recently settled in Guimarães, Portugal. http://www.caitlinmyer.com/

Steven John – Senior Fiction & Features Editor